Shameless: "Killer Carl"
B

Shameless: "Killer Carl"

B

Shameless

"Killer Carl"

Season 1, Episode 6
B

Shameless

"Killer Carl"

Season 1, Episode 6

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I had a slight breakthrough regarding Steve. For the first few weeks, I was trashing him for his condescending, stalkerish behavior and the fact that he appeared to be vacationing in Fiona’s hectic, house-of-cards lifestyle. I was sort of offended by Steve’s judgment of the Gallaghers, and what seemed like an obsession with diagnosing and treating their dysfunction. There are other hot girls in Chicago, I’m sure, ones who would be just as smitten with a hotwiring heartbreaker, even if he did have a face as effortlessly smug as that of Justin Chatwin. If Fiona was the one Steve was going to pursue, he’d have to learn to accept her situation as it is and tip-toe the precarious line between helpful, supportive boyfriend and social-worker-with-benefits. But he successfully managed to make that transition around “Casey Casden,” and two episodes later, I feel like I’ve done the same. Steve is about the closest Shameless gets to an audience proxy, so I was a bit of a hypocrite for calling him out on his “poorism.” At some point with this show, you just gotta jump in or jump out.

If “Killer Carl” had come earlier in the season, I might’ve jumped out. One of the things that fascinated me about “Casey Casden” was the difference between the family’s perception of Debbie and their perception of Carl. Debbie may suffer from poor decision-making and a lack of impulse control (as tends to be the case with kids), but to the rest of the Gallaghers, her tendency to quickly form attachments to people is cause for grave concern, while Carl’s violently anti-social behavior is just a case of boys being boys. When Debbie swiped the baby, the idea of putting her in therapy was tossed around. Carl routinely displays the behavior of a budding serial killer, and so long as the power doesn’t go out in the process, no one gets bent out of shape about it. But whereas earlier I’d have been a little put off by the double standard, now it’s just a nicely observed detail of the Gallagher family dynamic.

The crisis-of-the-week format was getting a little stale, so I was relieved to see a slight twist on it here. When the lights go out during Steve and Fiona’s morning session, the immediate assumption is that the Gallaghers are short on cash again and will have to come up with some scheme to get it. Instead, we find out that they have the money, but Fiona has been too preoccupied to pay it. She takes her matriarch role seriously, and she’s disturbed by the idea that something is throwing her off her game. It says a lot about Fiona that she processes the incident this way; the family’s situation is so tenuous that she has to be ever vigilant about any element that will further complicate things. It also says a lot about Fiona that despite her awareness that Steve might be throwing her off her game, it doesn’t seem to occur to her that if she needs someone to warm her bed at night, someone who isn’t going to distract her from taking care of her family, Tony the stable cop might be a better choice than Steve the shady car thief.

Steve does redeem himself though, with the help of an amazing joint. After Carl is threatened with expulsion for being all Carl-like and Frank refuses to come since he’s too busy trying to stay steps ahead of his bookies, Steve shows up with Fiona to talk the principal into backing down. (The principal was a bit of a cartoonish authority figure, but he was somewhat redeemed by some hilarious lines.) I still think Steve is a weasel—his rundown of why Fiona is afraid to let him in was weirdly self-congratulatory, as if his relationship with her is a game to see if he can get her to let her guard down. But given how grossed out I was by him and his courtship of her early on, it’s a sign of progress that I’m dissecting their relationship rather than dismissing it entirely.

The two characters who still aren’t working for me are Sheila and Kash. This should have been the episode that brought me around on Sheila, since it showed the emotional consequences her agoraphobia has wreaked. I found it sad in “Three Boys” when a disappointed Karen tells Sheila she would bring her a piece of wedding cake, and moreso when she mentioned Parents’ Night knowing full well her mother probably wouldn’t be able to make it. But I’m not identifying with Sheila; I’m identifying with Karen. I like Joan Cusack generally speaking, but I don’t think her wacky, rubber-faced vibe is working for Sheila, and I wish Allison Janney hadn’t dropped out. (Especially since Mr. Sunshine was her final destination.) Kash, meanwhile, got a little more gross than he was before, which I wouldn’t have thought was possible. I saw in the comments last week a mention of the fact that if Kash was a woman, we wouldn’t be batting an eyelash about the relationship with Ian. I don’t totally agree with that, mostly since Cameron Monaghan always looks so sad and fragile, in spite of the character he’s playing. But even if Ian was having an affair with an older married woman, if it was suggested that affair was because the woman can’t stand being confronted or challenged, it would be equally gross. Kash’s unwillingness to confront the Milkovich kid says to me that he’s just a milquetoast who is drawn to Ian because he thinks Ian isn’t in a position to walk over him.

Stray observations:

  • I like the idea of Lip being a genius, but I just wasn’t that absorbed in his SAT plot this week.
  • The scene with the family happening upon Frank at Parents’ Night was pretty devastating.
  • Please make Karen stop calling him “Daddy Frank.” It’s creepy.
  • No Kev and Veronica this week. I can only assume they’re on their fake honeymoon.
  • I was so bugged by the scene of Sheila using the virtual reality goggles, maybe because I don’t care about Sheila, or maybe because it was just stupid.

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